What happens when there's a snow storm in Toronto? 

How Canada’s Largest City Manages the White Stuff. Many hands make light work. If we all chip in and do our part we can get through the next snowfall just fine like the polite, considerate Canadians we are. If not, we’ll have to call in the army.

  • Cars driving on slippery road during heavy snowfall in Toronto

Toronto residents have a well-deserved reputation around the country for thinking we live in the centre of the universe. Travel to Alberta or BC and the moment they find out you are from Hog Town someone will likely bring up the famous snowstorm in 1999 when former mayor Mel Lastman enlisted the assistance of Canada’s Armed Forces to help with the cleanup. After several weeks of heavy accumulation and an additional major snowfall warning from Environment Canada, Lastman decided to call in the troops. 400-plus soldiers from CFB Petawawa descended upon the city in massive armoured vehicles called Bisons-plough-trucks, carrying paramedics to deal with any potential emergencies, of which there were 35 reported. When asked about it a decade later Lastman stood firm by his decision and made no apology whatsoever since his actions ensured emergency and transit vehicles could reach their destinations safely.

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and we effectively became the laughing stock of the entire continent for years to come. Well, at least until Mayor David Miller’s successor arrived on the scene. I digress.

A Rick Mercer Report Fifth Estate Special Report that is often re-circulated come the first snowfall pokes fun at traumatized Torontonians. Valiantly clearing a dusting of snow from their Lexus with Isotoner gloves in order to take their children to Montessori school, they find themselves unable to cope with being viciously targeted by Mother Nature’s wrath. It’s funny because, well, it’s true. Each and every year Police officers and insurance company phone lines are tied up dealing with fenders benders involving people who forgot how to drive in the winter.

The only ones rejoicing are tow truck drivers and body shops.

Any time there is more than a few centimetres of snow in the forecast, words like ‘Snowmageddon’ or ‘Snowpocalypse’ flash up on the television screen in big, splashy graphics urging residents to stay indoors and gather food rations. It is of no surprise that the rest of the country wonders why we can’t just grow a pair and strap on the Sorel’s like everyone else.

The reality is that both municipalities and residents outside the country’s largest city are better prepared and equipped to deal with the white stuff. They also have more space, less traffic and more ample parking options so driving a larger vehicle more suitable to poor weather conditions is practical. In rural areas, snow creates a magical winter wonderland that could add a few minutes to a commute. Introduce a little frozen precipitation to Canada’s largest metropolitan centre however, and it effectively grinds it to a road rage-inducing halt. It doesn’t help that traffic is horrendous at the best of times, thanks to an ineffective transit system, poorly scheduled road closures, construction and delivery vehicles blocking lanes of major arteries during rush hour.

Mayor John Tory has recently introduced a much-publicized and polarizing zero tolerance policy to combat these illegally parked vehicles on major arteries during rush hour. While he acknowledges he doesn’t enjoy the idea of having vehicles towed, he does believe that this approach is “pro-family and pro-business,” since time spent in traffic means time away from the home and office, which according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade costs the Greater Toronto Area roughly $6-billion a year. Yes, that’s billion with a B. Toronto Police said that 28 vehicles were towed during that first Monday morning rush hour, hopefully sending a strong message. It was enough for Canada Post to modify Toronto delivery schedules when possible in order to avoid these peak times, admitting that their fleet contributes to said congestion.

According to Stephen Buckley, general manager of transportation services for the City of Toronto, Toronto has among the highest standards in the province in terms of the winter maintenance services it offers to its citizens. The city’s Transportation Services division is responsible for the repair and maintenance of 5,600 kilometres of roads, 7,945 kilometres of sidewalks, 600 bridges and culverts, 504 pedestrian crosswalks and 4,100 bus shelters with the help of 1,200 staff members.

There is also a lot that city residents can to do help. The city will clear sidewalks where and when they are able but ask for home and business owners to assist by clearing and salting these spaces. They also ask that you not simply push the snow into the street. Work from home if you can, take your time, drive according to the conditions and ensure your vehicle is equipped to deal with the weather beyond simply buying winter tires. Also, please purchase winter tires. Keep your vehicle in safe condition by replacing your windshield wipers, topping up your washer fluid and clearing snow off your vehicle. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing inconsiderate jerks driving down the highway with a massive snow hat on their vehicle, oblivious to their lack of visibility or the mayhem they are causing for fellow motorists behind them.

Snow Storm Toronto

Many hands make light work. If we all chip in and do our part we can get through the next snowfall just fine like the polite, considerate Canadians we are. If not, we’ll have to call in the army.

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